The Invention of the Eyewitness: Witnessing and Testimony in Early Modern France
In an examination of eyewitness travel writing in thirteenth- through sixteenth-century France, Andrea Frisch studies the figure of the witness at a historical juncture and in a cultural context in which that figure is generally thought to have begun to assume a recognizably modern form and function.
Whereas most accounts of early modern travel literature tend to read modern presuppositions about witnessing and testimony back into the material, Frisch approaches the early modern witness in terms of the cultural legacy of the Middle Ages. Through primary readings in law and theology, Frisch documents the tension between the ethical witness (the characteristic witness of premodernity) and the epistemic witness (the modern witness) and explores the impact of that tension on the figure of the witness in pre- and early modern French-language travel literature.
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However , the protocols of the medieval inquisition were such that a witness ' s
social status retained priority over his potential knowledge in determining his
juridical legitimacy and thus , his credibility . In both England and France , as late
CREDIBLE V . LAWFUL WITNESSES Up through most of the fifteenth century , as
I have suggested , French lay courts ... between the categories of the “ credible ”
and the " lawful ” witness , since a witness ' s credibility was established prior to ...
Because the mechanisms for establishing credibility prior to allowing witnesses
to take the oath and testify were no longer practicable by the sixteenth century ,
witnesses were legally testifying without first having been deemed credible .